To me, asparagus signals the arrival of spring and I love it when those slender, pencil thin spears of glorious green asparagus start arriving at my local farmers market. I have also been a huge fan of Sheila Lukas since the arrival of the first Silver Palate Cookbook back in the mid 80s. This recipe is from her last book “Celebrate” and this recipe certainly does celebrate spring. As much as I love asparagus what drew me to this recipe was the tarragon. It is by far my favorite of all the herbs and I just don’t think people use it enough. I am always looking for ways to incorporate it into recipes other than chicken, which seems to be its most common use. This recipe certainly fits the bill.
To me this was really just an asparagus vichyssoise using chicken stock in place of the water and parsnip in place of the potato. Certainly the star of the show is the asparagus but what really drives the recipe to its heights is tarragon. The smell of the tarragon through the house as the soup simmered had my mouth watering for a taste. The soup is so easy it can be on the table in no time and certainly it is worth doubling the recipe and keeping it in the freezer for those times when you just don’t want to cook dinner.
Since the soup is so light and refreshing (definitely try it chilled) I thought it would pair nicely with something a bit spicier. My fish monger had some beautiful scallops today and as soon as I saw them I knew what I wanted to do. I paired the soup with bacon wrapped scallops and a spicy aoili and on the side, my old standby polenta.
I dipped the scallops in melted butter seasoned with garlic, cayenne and salt and pepper, then wrapped them in bacon and put them in the oven just until the bacon was cooked. For the aoili it was mayonnaise with ground chili paste, lime and cilantro. For the polenta I simply pan fried slices in a little butter just until they developed a crispy exterior but were still velvety creamy on the inside. I think it all came together perfectly.